A Guide to Personalization Marketing

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A digital marketer reviews data on an analytics dashboard.

Technological advancements and evolving media consumption habits have drastically changed the game for digital marketers. New strategies and even job titles have emerged to help businesses get ahead of these developments and stand out from the competition. Factors like increasing digitization, a growing reliance on mobile devices and the popularity of social media platforms continue to shape what users expect from brand experiences and how they communicate with businesses.

Many consumers face a barrage of media messages each day. Companies that can offer relevant and highly personalized content at the request of their audience are more likely to get their messages to resonate with the right consumers.

Permission and personalization marketing are two ways organizations can target consumers in more innovative and meaningful ways. Let’s take a crash course in these marketing trends. You’ll discover why they matter to today’s consumer and how you can build the skills needed to keep up with where the industry is headed.

Permission Marketing vs. Interruption Marketing

Before we dive into personalization marketing, it’s important to trace the evolution of marketing and why customers respond positively to messages tailored to them. To establish this understanding, let’s compare the more traditional approach of interruption marketing with the recent shift to permission marketing.

What Is Interruption Marketing?

Interruption marketing is a term used to describe any type of marketing message that a prospective customer did not ask to receive. Examples include:

  • Direct mail marketing materials
  • Telemarketing calls
  • Cold prospecting email campaigns
  • Television and radio advertisements
  • Paid ads or earned media coverage in print publications
  • Billboard advertising
  • Digital pop up ads
  • Sponsored social media posts

As the name suggests, anything that falls under the umbrella of interruption marketing is intended to interrupt the prospect, catch their attention and draw them in. With this type of approach, marketers cast a wide net and typically promote a more general message with broader appeal.

Disadvantages of Interruption Marketing

Interruption marketing strategists will usually have a certain amount of data that helps to define their audience, such as the ZIP codes of listeners to a particular radio station, or the age group of visitors to a particular website. But they don’t really know if the people they’re reaching have any interest in the company’s products and services, and they can’t always tell if their efforts are annoying prospects or generating sales.

The risk is that a significant amount of marketing spending will go to waste. Based on a widely cited 2007 study by market research firm Yankelovich, today’s industry analysts estimate that the average U.S. consumer is exposed to anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 marketing messages per day. The likelihood of a viewer remembering even a small percentage of the companies and offers is slim.

Moreover, many digital natives have grown accustomed to blocking out those ads, through web browser extensions or out of habit. Nearly half of global web users rely on ad blockers, Digital Content Next reported in 2020, and this is expected to cost media publishers $16 billion to $78 billion in lost revenue. This is why permission marketing can be a valuable alternative.

What Is Permission Marketing?

Permission marketing is a term used to describe any type of marketing message that the prospect has agreed to receive. Examples include:

  • Opt-in email marketing lists
  • Organic social media content
  • SMS marketing
  • Desktop or mobile push notifications
  • Subscription-based newsletters
  • Loyalty programs
  • Landing page or blog content and embedded calls to action
  • Downloadable resources used to attract leads
  • Chatbot services
  • RSS feeds

In a 2017 HubSpot survey, 83% of respondents noted that, “although they want to filter out obnoxious ads, they realize not all ads are bad and that they can be useful.” This suggests that there’s still a chance for savvy marketing professionals to make an impression.

Digital marketers collect and analyze various types of customer data to better understand what their target audiences consider useful. They then develop relevant marketing messages tailored to those needs and interests and present them to their prospects.

With permission marketing, the prospect will opt in or sign up to accept marketing communications from the brand. For example, with an email newsletter, a prospective customer might provide personal information like their name and email address. On social media, they would manually follow a company’s account to start seeing branded posts in their feed. These are considered explicit forms of permission.

Why Permission Marketing Works

By directing their attention to more engaged and targeted audiences through permission marketing tactics, organizations can improve their conversion rates and cultivate long-term, high-value relationships. Through these types of campaigns, organizations can stay in contact with individuals who have made their interest in that brand known through some type of action. Many of the aforementioned permission marketing examples involve releasing a steady stream of content, keeping customers informed and helping brands continuously engage with their audiences.

Additionally, organizations can capitalize on less expensive marketing channels like social media, email campaigns and web content created with search engine optimization in mind. In general, their efforts will also provide more bang for the marketing buck by attracting higher-quality leads. After all, someone who takes the time to request a free downloadable resource or join a loyalty program is likely a more qualified lead than someone who saw a billboard on their morning commute.

Personalization Marketing

To inspire that person to sign up in the first place and stay engaged for months and years to come, digital marketers can create customized content and personalized experiences that their prospects can’t resist. Here is where personalization marketing enters the picture.

What Is Personalization Marketing, and How Does It Fit In?

Personalization marketing is all about predicting and delivering what a potential customer wants. This data-driven marketing technique involves the collection of historical data related to user behavior, coupled with predictive analytics and machine learning, to deliver unique recommendations tailored to each person.

An ecommerce company, for example, might use data from a customer’s order history to recommend other products of interest via personalized emails. Live browsing activity can even be used to provide real-time product recommendations through website personalization. Alternatively, a digital marketer may examine past email open and click-through rates to identify which messages performed the best. That information will reveal what type of content they should emulate for a future email marketing campaign.

Personalized marketing is continually evolving to enable organizations to target their customers in new ways. True personalization helps advance customer relationships and can provide a measurable impact on a business.

Does Content Personalization Really Make Marketing Better?

Customers have reported a significant preference for personalized marketing over interruption marketing. For instance, research from SmarterHQ revealed that 72% of consumers choose only to engage with personalized marketing messages.

This customer behavior often has a direct impact on buyer intent as well as the bottom line. According to a 2018 Accenture report, 91% of consumers are more inclined to buy from brands that recognize and remember their preferences and provide relevant recommendations and offers based on that activity. Moreover, a 2019 McKinsey study revealed that leaders in personalization marketing have seen revenue increases of 5% to 15% and efficiency in marketing spending improve by 10% to 30%.

Personalization marketing also helps establish trust with target audiences. As prospects search for valuable and informative material or products and services they would enjoy, they’re likely to revisit a brand that understands how to meet and exceed their expectations. The more personalized a marketing message is, the more readily it can help improve engagement rates and ensure that consumers remember a brand.

However, it’s important to remember that content personalization is often just one facet of a company’s overarching marketing strategy and the customer experience it facilitates. For instance, an organization with a weak strategic posture and poor customer service won’t suddenly see results by sending out tailored emails. The rest of the marketing strategy should provide a solid foundation that personalization marketing efforts can enhance.

Crafting Personalized Content for Your Audience

Developing a permission marketing campaign with personalized content isn’t something that happens overnight. Digital marketers need to gather the right type of data, extract actionable insights from it and then develop a content marketing strategy that meets their target audience’s needs.

Use Customer Data To Inform a Personalization Strategy

Businesses that want to excel in personalization marketing can use customer data platforms (CDPs) with machine learning capabilities. These tools can collect relevant analytics and use large amounts of data to generate customized product recommendations for potential buyers. But human analysis isn’t out of the picture. Digital marketers can also use tracking tools and marketing metrics to extract qualitative and quantitative customer insights.

Develop Audience Personas

The main objective of personalization marketing is to match people with the most relevant content, but it also helps to consider what messages different types of customers want to receive and how they want to access them. Creating buyer or audience personas is an important step in personalization marketing. You’ll need to conduct thorough research to identify factors like:

  • The demographic details of your current and prospective customers
  • The media consumption habits of those groups
  • Your target audience’s main challenges, pain points and goals
  • Opportunities where your business can help address these issues and objectives

From there, you can complete the audience persona exercise by giving your fictional prospect (or prospects) a set of characteristics. Once you have established details like this potential customer’s age, job, personal and professional background, values and interests, you can use this persona as a jumping-off point when creating targeted content.

Produce High-Quality Content

Content marketing involves creating and sharing resources that are relevant to your target audience. Rather than pitching your products and services, successful content marketing materials will answer your potential customers’ questions and solve their problems. After getting to know and trust your brand and benefiting from all of the helpful information you’ve made available, a prospect looking for real results will be inclined to convert.

Creating compelling and personalized content marketing materials can significantly improve the customer experience and increase brand engagement. Once you understand the questions and problems your audience might have, you can create a variety of material including:

  • Blog posts
  • Social media posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Guidebooks
  • Landing pages
  • Podcasts
  • Courses

It’s important to ensure that any content you share is optimized for the devices your audience uses. If your blog is difficult to read on a mobile device, site visitors might not stick around to take in your message. Social media videos without subtitles might not make an impression on viewers who are scrolling through their feed without the volume turned on.

Beyond the actual topic and focus of your content, these types of details can make a difference in the quality of your content and how it’s received.

Opportunities for Forward-Thinking Digital Marketers

Given the power of effective personalization, marketing teams across industries may be expected to use these strategies in their day-to-day work. A marketer at any career level — from the intern to the executive — could participate in some way in the development, implementation and analysis of a personalization marketing campaign.

Professionals who can fill the following marketing roles will be in high demand in the coming years, according to MarketPro:

  • Director of Growth Marketing
  • Marketing Data Scientist
  • Chief Experience Officer
  • President of Brands
  • Machine Learning Engineer

Additionally, new jobs are likely to emerge with the increasing sophistication of personalization marketing techniques. McKinsey predicts that:

  • Physical spaces will become increasingly digitized and integrated with or augmented by virtual spaces
  • Advanced machine learning algorithms will allow marketers to assess emotions and provide empathetic recommendations and responses
  • Businesses will find new ways to streamline the consumer ecosystem, from the home to the outside world and from devices to consumer goods

Digital marketers with the cutting-edge skill sets needed for these types of developments will be well positioned to move the industry forward.

Strategic Marketing Is an Essential Business Skill

Although marketing exists as its own discipline, it’s also an essential tool for all business leaders. To thrive in a business environment, you’ll need to understand important marketing practices like personalization marketing and how to leverage them effectively to boost brand awareness and attract new customers.

By obtaining permission and using customer data to personalize marketing content, businesses across a variety of industries can provide current and potential customers with the most relevant information. Ultimately, this will help companies present a positive brand image and build more valuable relationships with their audiences.

If McKinsey’s predictions for the future of personalization marketing come true, business leaders from chief executives to mid-level managers will need to rethink their way of operating to support these advanced, customer-centric marketing initiatives.

Develop Your Marketing Expertise With an Online MBA

Studying marketing at the graduate level through a top-rated MBA program can prepare you to take on complex projects and management responsibilities within agencies and in-house marketing teams. By earning an Online MBA with a Marketing specialization from the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, you can learn advanced business and marketing strategies that can help you and the companies you work with grow.

You’ll establish a solid business foundation through a well-rounded MBA program featuring courses in finance, economics, management and data analysis. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to hone your marketing prowess through specialized courses including Marketing Management, Customer Equity Management, Consumer Behavior and Co-Creating Customer Experience.

A rigorous but flexible curriculum will allow you to continue professional growth while you study — enabling you to graduate with an MBA in as few as 24 months. Plus, a variety of experiential learning projects, on-campus residencies and study abroad opportunities will prepare you to tackle complex, real-world problems while expanding your global business perspective.

To learn more about the Online MBA program and Marketing specialization from the Smith School of Business, visit the program page and request more information today.


Recommended Readings:

What Is the Online MBA Marketing Specialization at the University of Maryland?

6 Data Analyst Skills for the Modern Marketer to Master

Are TV and Radio Still Effective for Advertising and Marketing?



Accenture, Making It Personal: Pulse Check 2018

Digital Content Next, Countering the Revenue Loss Caused by Ad Blockers

HubSpot, The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2020

Investopedia, Permission Marketing

McKinsey, The Future of Personalization — and How To Get Ready for It

PPC Protect, How Many Ads Do We See a Day

SmarterHQ, Privacy & Personalization